At the freeholders’ caucus on April 23, help for businesses suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy was an important order of business. These businesses may get new relief as the state authorizes as much as $30 million in grants.
Freeholder Bill O’Dea said the state is preparing to offer businesses help provided that they meet certain criteria, such as having suffered at least $5,000 in physical damage or suffered financial losses for at least one quarter of a year since Sandy hit. The business also must have between $25,000 and $8 million in annual sales.
“But the important requirement is that they must have applied for loans from the Small Business Administration,” O’Dea said.
This could be substantial help, up to $50,000 from the state in grants and up to $100,000 in financing.
“If a business is denied a loan from the SBA, it could still be eligible for $50, 000,” O’Dea said.
He said it was urgent for the county to reach out to local businesses, since the SBA had extended its stay in Hudson County and will continue to rent office space at 830 Bergen Avenue, Jersey City, until the end of May.
“It’s a concern to me because many of the businesses impacted found it too cumbersome to apply for SBA loans.” – Bill O’Dea
“It’s a concern to me because many of the businesses impacted found it too cumbersome to apply for SBA loans, or found the interest rate wasn’t a bargain,” O’Dea said. “But we have to get the message out.”
O’Dea suggested putting together a taskforce to seek out businesses in those towns hardest hit such as Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, and Kearny.
“Even if we have to go to the businesses and hold their hands through the process it will be worth it,” O’Dea said, estimating that as many as 500 businesses in Hudson County might be eligible. “It doesn’t have to be flooding. A tree falling on a business or other damage that caused damage and loss of business would qualify.”
He suggested that the county reach out to local towns and get someone there to canvas businesses.
County preparing for federal cuts
On other business, it was reported that federal cuts due to the sequester will have an impact but maybe not this year, according to Susan Mearns, director of Hudson County Housing and Community Development.
She told the freeholders at the April 23 caucus that the department is operating with a 10-percent cutback, which is about five percent higher than expected but would create a reserve for next year if the issue continues.
The county is currently doing an inventory of grants and programs, seeking to get some of the nonprofit organizations to seek alternative funding through grant applications rather than relying on federal allocations.
O’Dea said cuts to state and federal aid to nonprofits will require these groups to seek funding, but that many funding sources require nonprofits to have websites which are up to date. Many of the small nonprofits either do not have websites or do not have the staff to maintain them, and he suggested that the county step in to help provide these groups with information on how to establish and maintain websites.
County approves $10 million contract with Hudson Regional
Another agenda item was the county’s contract with Hudson Regional Health, which ran out on Dec. 31. Because the previous contract had not accounted for rises in costs, the new contract has a significant increase.
This seven-year contract helps adjust costs that the previous contract did not cover, and helps Hudson Regional because it has seen a significant cutback in grants and other revenues it had prior to this, said County Administrator Abe Antun.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.